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August 5, 2011

Just launched: Keep Track of My Games | Posted at 12:12 AM

I just launched a new website, Keep Track of My Games.

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It lets you add almost any game you want to a list where you can organize and track unreleased games. The app will email or TXT you when a game's release date changes, when it's released, or when it's about to be released.

June 18, 2010

Go to Gamestop and Get a Shiny New Xbox 360 for $150 [Deals] | Posted at 6:38 PM

My new Xbox 360!

Kotaku to the rescue. Here's my experience:

After reading the article, I called my local Gamestop and they said they had 1 new Xbox left. So I quickly backed up my profiles, themes, avatars, etc. on my 4GB flash, and only about 50MB worth of stuff was backed up. Didn't transfer videos, etc.

Stuffed my Xbox Elite 120GB (no wireless adapter) into my backpack with cables and grabbed about 10 games (X360, Wii) I've been wanting to get rid of.

I drove to the Gamestop and asked if they still had it in stock, they had, and I gave them my stuff. After going through everything, they took everything except the old Xbox originals.

"Where's your controller?" Uh… crap.

I forgot a controller! So I either had to trade in everything and NOT get to apply it to my new Xbox purchase (because the trade was incomplete) or gamble and come back (traffic was about 25 mins each way).

BUT WAIT. The nice woman said that she could sell me a used controller and that'd count, I'd just be paying that much more. So that's what I did... unfortunately, but I didn't want to come back later.

The moral of my story: REMEMBER TO BRING EVERYTHING. They need wires and controller but not an HDMI if you have one; the new Xbox doesn't come with an HDMI cable. I almost gave them that, too.

So, in the end, my receipt was:
Trade-in + Edge Savings: -$198
Used Wired controller: $27
New Xbox 360: $300
Edge + GameInformer 12mo: $15
Tax: $9

This brings my total to only $153. If I had remembered my controller, I could have had the bugger for $126! But now I have an extra wireless controller, letting me use my wired for my PC... so whatever I guess.

I am very happy not only because I have a new pimp Xbox but also because I no longer need my network switch all the way across my apartment just for the Xbox. Now my Wii, Xbox 360, and laptop use Wi-Fi. So will my PS3 once I buy one.

READ ON FOR IMPORTANT TRANSFER INFO

I found out too late that the USB transfer didn't go as smooth as it said it did. It didn't transfer about 4 gamer profiles (my girlfriend's and my friend who play A LOT) and it didn't transfer most (any?) of my save games (even though it did transfer a few saves from other profiles)!

So now I have 0% in Red Dead (although I beat it) and no savegames in all my other games. At least I have my achievements, which my girlfriend unfortunately can't say.

The reason I believe this happened is because of a stupid "feature" that when you transfer, it actually MOVES the information to the other device instead of copying. I had initiated a transfer before that I canceled about 25% of the way through, then deleted whatever was on there because I assumed it just copied. Nope. I deleted my own save games.

Double check your transfer to make sure everything transferred correctly and DO NOT just format your USB drive; transfer everything over first.

October 29, 2009

Uncharted 2: Playing a Movie [Reflections] | Posted at 12:56 PM

I am about 90% done with Uncharted 2, in fact I should be done by tonight. I couldn't help but talk about this game even before I finish it because there are a few things I want to say.

The first is that every other game with a story needs to learn from this game because this is the first game in a long time (along with Arkham Asylum) that I can play for 4 hours straight and still want to keep playing. My roommate stayed up until 6am playing this game to get to the end.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was a really great game but the story was really what kept it going along with the excellent platforming. Uncharted 2 takes everything that was good about the first game, multiplies it by 5 and then adds crack cocaine to it. I seriously can't think of anything wrong with this game. It has an amazing story, incredibly fun and challenging gameplay (you will die), excellent graphics, fantastic voice acting, and surprisingly fun multiplayer. There were moments in the game where I couldn't believe that it was even possible to do.

Speaking about voice acting, Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Emily Rose (Elena) do a fantastic job at making you love the characters. You want to keep playing because you want to know what happens next. It's like an addicting book in video game form. The story is paced perfectly, the villain is actually scary, and there is plenty of intrigue and romance that I think is much better than most movies today.

One thing about me is that I hate dying in games… yes, I am a baby but I like to enjoy the story continuously without being interrupted by things like death. The thing about the first Uncharted was that I could only play a few firefights and then quit because I'd die so often, even though I was on Normal. In Uncharted 2, I chose Very Easy so I could get through the game and hear the story. That said, I still heavily enjoyed Uncharted 1 even though I kept dying because it was a lot of fun.

Games like Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, where I die every second are no fun to me because there's no reward for living other than to go on and fight and die more often. In games like Batman, Uncharted, BioShock, and Half-Life 2, when you die you want to keep going because there's a new narrative waiting to be told or a discovery to be made. I think that a part of what makes the firefights fun in Uncharted 1/2 is that there's a goal at the end, a place to get to, or a secret to be found. In other words, give me a reason to fight these people and then I won't quit the game.

I will be writing soon about this year in games because quite frankly it was an excellent year for gaming… and still could be even more excellent considering the upcoming releases of Assassin's Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Left 4 Dead 2.

September 25, 2009

Brutal Legend [Impressions] | Posted at 12:05 PM

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As you may know, the demo for Brutal Legend is out (for Gold Subscribers, Oct 1 for regular people).

I, of course, downloaded and played it about 4 times (on Normal and Brutal difficulty).

See, the thing is, I really, really like metal. It brings me joy to see a proper tribute to this almost-rare art form. But, Brutal Legend is a game that will entertain you even if you don't like metal.

Tim Schafer, the genius behind such great titles as Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, is at it again with hilarious laugh-out-loud writing and excellent, satisfying gameplay.

I sat down to play the demo and the first thing that jumps out at you is the clever menu (something that isn't uncommon in Schafer's games). It's a vinyl that is turned over, opened, etc. by a pair of hands depending on what option you want. Awesome.

The introduction is absolutely epic and hilarious, I won't ruin it for you, but I laughed multiple times and my friends were very entertained as well (none of whom really like metal). During the opening cinematic the game gives you the options of enabling vulgarity's (to provide an authentic roadie experience) and to enable gore (but only when it is very awesome). The game is so awesome, one of my friends wants to come over just to watch me play it.

One thing that stood out to me was the music selection. If you didn't know, it's an all metal soundtrack. The team has done a superb job choosing the right music for the scenes, building it up in all the right places. Sometimes cut scenes are annoying in other games (Metal Gear Solid, anyone?) but I could watch the cut scenes all day in Brutal Legend because they're masterfully crafted. It is very well-directed and full of heavy metal tribute scenery.

That brings me to the world of heavy metal itself… a metalhead's wet dream. Towers of skulls, gates weighed down by hotrod engines, hooded dagger-wielding henchmen, and a sweet boss. There is much to see in the world of Brutal Legend and I was sad that the demo was so short.

The combat in the game is terrific, every hit with your axe feels tactile, I almost wish they vibrated the controller on every hit (maybe they do, I didn't notice). The guitar is awesome. Every weapon has a fast attack and a heavy attack and there are multiple combos you can perform. You can even perform combos with your partner.

All in all the demo was superb and I can't wait until the game comes out. I had pre-ordered the game a few weeks ago… and now the wait is going to kill me.

Brutal Legend is coming Rocktober 13th and you damn well better pre-order the sucker now.

July 3, 2009

Red Alert 3 Save Game Location in Windows 7 | Posted at 11:55 AM

It's in your "Saved Games" folder in your user folder:

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C:\Users\{Your User}\Saved Games\Red Alert 3

It took me awhile to find it.

March 5, 2009

Harmonix: Your Quality Control is SHIT. [Rant] | Posted at 12:05 AM

Don't buy Rock Band 2 drums, they suck.

Update: Yes, I know that is not the RB drum set… but my rant still applies. By the way, my old RB drum set (that got replaced) and gave to my friend is now broken as well.

Dear Harmonix Quality Control,

Okay, I think I've had enough of this… and yes, I'm going to swear in this post, go cry to your mommy you little baby.

Since buying Rock Band 1 and subsequently Rock Band 2, I've seen or experienced these issues:

  • Replace my RB1 guitar (strummer)
  • Replace my RB1 drum set (sensitivity)
  • Throw away my broken pedal
  • The replacement guitar strum bar STILL sucks but I only have it because it looks sweet
  • Watched my friend's RB1 drum pedal break (and all the thousands of other people)
  • Watched my friend's RB1 drum pads break (yellow didn't work)
  • Watched another person's RB2 drum pads break

Oh and by the way, my girlfriend's 2 year old Guitar Hero III controller? It still is fully functional (battery sometimes gets loose). Yes, they have problems, but at least they last longer than 60 days.

On New Year's day I purchased stand-alone drums for Rock Band 2 off Amazon considering, "Hey, they must have fixed all the crap that plagued the Rock Band 1 sets, so who needs a warranty?!"

Guess what?

They're already broken. That means they're worse than RB1 drums.

First, the drum pedal wasn't working (Valentine's Day) and the pads were fine. Okay… Then my Xbox breaks (fine, not your fault) and when I get it back, the drums don't sync. They're still blinking right now, in fact. Such a simple little thing that EVERYONE ELSE GETS RIGHT.

Yes, I've tried everything the other hundreds of people have tried.

This is sickening. I paid $80 for these drums, they work for a few weeks, then 62 days later they break and I can't return them because I bought them off Amazon. That's $80 down the drain. Unbelievable.

Also, I'm not the only one. Plenty of people in these threads have said they've needed to return the sets twice until they got a good set. THREE TIMES until a good set?

It was tolerable when I could easily get them replaced without this stupid 60 day warranty bullshit. I could get them replaced within a week or two. Fine. And now because you know you have shoddy manufacturing you decide to put a limit because I bet so many people have returned faulty products.

You make good games, excellent games, but you make shitty instruments (or your manufacturer makes shitty instruments). Neversoft was correct when they said we'd buy their instruments when your shit breaks. I probably will go out and buy the GH drums when I have some money to throw away again.

GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, SON.

Love,

A Loyal Fan [to the game]

PS. I may forgive you of your transgressions if you can somehow manage to get Blind Guardian, Ensiferum, Heavenly, Helloween, better Iron Maiden (done!), W.A.S.P., Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, and A Night at the Opera by Queen onto the Rock Band music store.

In other words, I will maybe never forgive you.

January 29, 2009

How To: Install Operation Anchorage for Steam Using Games for Windows Live [Annoying] | Posted at 10:01 PM

It took me around 20 minutes to find any shred of information about how to install Operation Anchorage to my Fallout 3 game on Steam.

Here's how to do it:

So, first you need to download the file from Games for windows LIVE file that is at around 594MB. Once you do that, I found my files at C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR LOG-ON NAME\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\XLive\DLC\425307d6\00000002\d96e635 e19d298dac6820680085d45c5d36b9130\Content

op-anchorage-data-folder

I just copied those files to X:\Steam\steamapps\common\fallout 3\Data

op-anchorage-steam-folder

When you launch it from Steam, on the first little box that appears, that allows you to play; Choose Data Files, and activate the one called Anchorage.esm in addition to the Fallout3.esm. Then launch the game.

op-anchorage-launcher

Then I started Fallout 3 from Steam. After I loaded the save I wanted to play - I started the LIVE while still being in-game. Half a second after I was connected to LIVE I got the radio signal in-game.

Note: You need to be able to see hidden files and folders to find the files, btw. Open any random folder, like My Documents. Tools -> Folder Options -> View -> Scroll down until you find Show Hidden Files and Folders.

A million thanks to Kaguya for doing all of this for us.

January 1, 2009

Prince of Persia 4: Why do you do this to me? [A Review, Bittersweet] | Posted at 11:07 PM

Warning: This post will spoil the ending, so don't read it unless you've beaten it (or don't care).

Prince of Persia 4 (2008)

Title: Prince of Persia 4 (2008)
Platform: PC
Grade: B+
Rent or Buy?: Rent
Time Taken: 3 days, maybe 15 hours

First, let me say that I mostly enjoyed my time beating the newest Prince of Persia. There were parts that really ticked me off (camera angles, repetitiveness, etc.) Now let me follow that up with this: it was all going great until the end. The end was… frustrating. It was frustrating because I can see why it had to be done, but why couldn't it have been something that didn't totally undo EVERYTHING I DID IN THE GAME.

I did not want Elika to die. I was in the same boat as the prince… but I also didn't want to free that slow, half-retarded God Ahriman (seriously, he isn't smart enough to punch ahead of where you're going). It was like the whole game was about getting me to like the characters and I really did, then they drop the bomb even though I knew it was going to happen. I kept hoping they wouldn't ruin it, hoping that they would find another way to keep her alive without unleashing the God. THANKS GOD OF LIGHT, lots of good you did!

I wrote this post after talking with some people about it and standing back and thinking about why they did this. It is obvious that they are doing a sequel, otherwise it would have been the happy ending. Is it a testament to their narrative abilities that they pissed me off? Doesn't that mean it was a good story? Maybe. One thing is for sure, they can redeem themselves with the next game. If they leave Elika to die in the next game, then I'm really going to be disappointed. It's like those authors that have these epic trilogies and then at the end, kill a character you were really attached to. I hate it, I don't care if it's supposed to be a "tragedy" or whatever, I like happy endings!

Enough of the story, I don't want to think about it. What of the actual gameplay? I'm sorry to say that it suffered from the same problems Assassin's Creed did. Fun but repetitive. Sometimes it felt like they just put stuff in between things that really didn't need to be there. Like, for example, jumping and whizzing about the Temple at the end. Or that whole "boss fight" with Ahriman. He seemed pretty dumb to me.

Still, I have to say that it couldn't be all bad because I beat it in the span of 3 days. What kept me going? The characters, mostly… waiting for those two to get together, but also the environments were very well done. The fact that you couldn't die also kept me playing, knowing I could do whatever I wanted and suffer no consequences. During fights I really did not enjoy the "push the button quick or else the dude will regenerate half his health!" moments. I was playing on PC, and the icons were in the Xbox 360's colors for ABXY. That didn't translate well and I found myself pressing the wrong buttons all too often. This was mostly alright except that the worst part of the whole game was trying to maneuver The Warrior into those stupid wooden columns. I was almost going to just turn the game off because it took like 15 minutes to try and do it.

Understand that I am not someone who enjoys failing at the same thing 20 times ala Ninja Gaiden, God of War, etc. After 3 times I usually quit. That's just how I am. At the same time, I felt PoP was too easy… which is a paradox, I know. I think it was because of the almost fully automated platform mechanics. Just press the right button and the Prince will do his thing, without your control. Assassin's Creed at least let me do whatever I want, and I felt like it was me who was doing everything. In PoP, it feels like you're telling the Prince what to do and he goes and does it. Don't ask how it should have been, I have no idea. I feel like these complaints are just because of how the gameplay mechanic works and perhaps there's no real solution. My constructive feedback to Ubisoft Montreal is to add better puzzles, or just more of them. I did like how it broke up the monotony to take some time and solve a puzzle.

I also think that you should hold our hands less. We are smart people, us gamers, we don't need to be told what to do every second. Look at Portal. No hand holding there. Even if it used visual indicators, it still left it up to you to figure out how to get there. In this, scratch marks on the walls tell you where to go. Why are there scratch marks there? It is a sad fact that platforming games will never fully explain why everything is there for the player to succeed. How come that platform there is there? What use did it have before I came along? I can't hold it against the game, as I wouldn't hold it against the myriad of previous platforming games.

I've also heard about other reviewers complain about the voice acting and its lack of… ethnicity. This was a "problem" in Assassin's Creed too but if you asked around, the assistant tells you its because the Animus can't translate everything or whatever. Then again, why do the rest of the cast have good voice acting or ethnic voices? Like AC, PoP has Californians do the main characters. The small difference is that I actually liked PoP's voice actors… I actually didn't mind the lack of ethnicity to be honest, it was like Aladdin. I don't think it takes away any from the narrative. I don't know if the humor the Prince used would be lost on some other actor. I, for one, enjoyed the banter back and forth between the Prince and Elika. Maybe it was cheesy, but I thought it better than a lot of games.

Elika: Haven't you heard that good things come to those who wait?
Prince: Good things are good things, why wait?

I really do feel like the actors did a good job portraying their character's personalities. This makes sense for Elika, being voiced by Kari Wahlgren, a great actress that you've probably heard in other games (Soul Calibur IV, Tales of Symphonia, Ninja Gaiden 2, FF12, etc.). Matt Mullins, the guy who does the Prince has a great voice and he actually does put comedic inflection into his acting, which really helped portray the Prince's character well. The two of them go together very well, their voices complement each other.

My final score? I'd give the game a B+. It was good enough to want to beat but frustrating and lacking in some parts that dragged it down.

November 13, 2008

Left 4 Dead: Paradigm Shift [They're Everywhere!] | Posted at 9:14 AM

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If you have yet to play the Left 4 Dead demo, you need to get on that shit now. No, I am serious, do it.

How come every Valve game is an A+ winner? How can they continuously come up with games that push the envelope in some way or another? I'll tell you how: Valve is made up of geniuses.

Left 4 Dead, if you've been living under a rock, is a zombie survival co-op shooter. Yes, you play as 4 disheveled persons trying to escape a zombie-ridden ground zero. And these aren't your mama's zombies neither, these things are fast and, dare I say, furious.

At first, the initial response is, "How great could that be?" Let me just say this: you've never played a game like this before. No, not even CSS ZombieMod comes close to this experience.

Why is that? What did Valve do to make this such a different experience?

I think there's a few things that jumped out at me (heh):

Lighting: The Source engine has been overhauled in Left 4 Dead to provide better dynamic lighting when using your flashlight along with darker levels with lots of corners. Your flashlight is constantly on and it is attached to your gun so if you are reloading, it will not shine on that Hunter that is leaping towards you.

Smart Zombies: Like I said earlier, these are not typical zombies and I think this is where Valve has differentiated their game. There are lots of different zombies, and apparently even more in the full game. While you may walk into a room and they'll be skulking about, once you get them angry, they turn into a vicious mob and then they just don't stop. They'll be running out of the woodwork, even behind you from places you just were. They come from the ceilings, the holes in the floor, the closets in the houses, and from all sides. It's an adrenaline rush of zombies. They jump, they leap, and some even climb on the ceiling and pin you down.

Did I mention the Boss Zombies? Oh yeah… they take a beating and will probably own you before you can even make a dent in their hide.

Co-Op Mechanics: Left 4 Dead really makes the gameplay intense by offering some great co-op mechanics. If your teammate is hurt, you can heal them but you offer up your medpack for them so you can't use it yourself. If a friend is pinned by a Hunter (a very fast, very bad zombie), you've gotta shoot him off to save him. If your friend is grabbed by a Smoker and is being dragged to oblivion, you better shoot that thing before your teammate is dead. Also, take care not to shoot your teammates, health is very important. You probably want to stick together too, if you get too far ahead or behind… well, there's no one to save you and trust me, you will need saving. It's important to note that saving someone isn't as simple as getting the zombie off, they still need to be helped up. This process is timed and any number of things could happen while you're helping your partner up, it just adds that much to the intense feeling of the game.

Gameplay: There's a lot of things that make this a great multiplayer game. You can only carry a pistol and one other type of weapon. Your pistol has unlimited ammo and should be used most often but you're gonna need your machine gun or shotgun when the fun starts. Additionally, you've got one medpack for yourself (or to use on a teammate) and you can also hold one bottle of painkillers. There's also a slot for a special weapon like a pipe bomb or a Molotov.

One of the scariest and coolest things that can happen in the game is when you trigger The Horde. Yah, it sounds bad and it really is crazy. This happens when you do a number of things including shooting a car that has a car alarm or getting vomited upon by a Boomer zombie. The Horde is just Valve's way of saying there's a shit ton of zombies heading your way so you better all bunch up and get ready. They come from every direction (and I mean every, watch the ceiling!) and depending on the type and source of the trigger, they will either attack all of you or just one teammate. Other dynamics of the Horde might be introduced in the full game.

It would seem to be a great idea to hide in a closet while this all boils over but that's a very bad idea. See, these zombies aren't idiots. If you're behind a door, they will bust through it (which is awesome to witness) and tear you to shreds if you can't kill all of them.

Intensity: Left 4 Dead is just a very intense experience, especially on Expert mode. It's a good idea to have a headset or mic to communicate with teammates but most people will just be screaming into it asking for help or warning you that a Hunter is right behind you. See, every time you play the maps the game changes. This is Valve's "AI Director" at work. It really makes it a cinematic experience. The Director is just an intelligent way for the game to dynamically change the amount of zombies, the sounds, and the music to make it unique each playthrough.

Another thing that contributes to the intensity is the speed and acrobatics of the zombies. The first time you see them turning the corner sprinting for your throat you realize that you've gotta be on your toes. If you're not watching your back… you better hope someone else is. The first time you see what a Hunter is (or more aptly, don't see it) you'll freak the hell out. I would not say L4D is a scary game in a horror-movie type way but rather it is a scary game in that it creates a certain thrill and is almost suspenseful. Once you get to an area that is not overrun by zombies it's a relief until someone does something stupid and alerts every enemy within a 3 mile radius to your location. It's basically an adrenaline rush.

The End

That's all I have to say for now. L4D is an instant buy in my opinion especially when you try the demo and play with friends. It's also the first multiplayer game in a long, long time to entice me and get me hungry for more. The last multiplayer-only game I played judiciously was CSS. Not even TF2 could get me addicted… but L4D? That's a different matter entirely.

One Sentence Review: Fallout 3 [PC] | Posted at 8:35 AM

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Title: Fallout 3
Platform: PC
Review: The only way to describe the experience when you first fire up Fallout 3 is how you felt when you played Morrowind: confused, epic, daunting, and a whole ton of awesome.
Grade: A+

Buy it from Steam

One Sentence Review: Fable II [Xbox] | Posted at 8:29 AM

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Title: Fable II
Platform: Xbox 360
Review: Addicting, long, and full of fantastic voice acting and writing, Fable II is one of the gems of 2008.
Grade: A

Buy it off Amazon

November 6, 2008

First Impressions: Red Alert 3 [Retail] | Posted at 3:24 PM

I’ve posted previously on the multiplayer beta of Red Alert 3 and it was apparent how I felt about it (not so thrilled).

So what do I think of the single-player campaign and LAN play, the pieces of the game that I really wanted to see. I said previously I hope EA did it right and so here is my initial impressions.

The Bottom Line: It’s fun!

Yes, my hope that the campaign and network play would be fun has come to fruition. While it still did not provide the same “Wow? factor the first time I played RA2, it is a worthy successor. The humor is there, the diverse missions are there, and the cheesy FMV cutscenes are there. Unlike C&C 3, I will probably finish all the campaigns.

I have yet to finish the campaigns but as soon as I do (not for awhile) I will post a full reflection on my experiences. As of yet, my strategies have not developed fully nor have I played with the Rising Sun much.

There was one thing that jumped out that was extremely disappointing: no local co-op play. Me and my roommate sat down, both of us using my one copy of the game (we’re cheap), ready to work together and play the campaign together.

Unfortunately, RA3 is only co-op campaign over the internet and there’s no option for LAN co-op, which was really a disappointment.

On the other end of the spectrum, the music is fantastic. It’s got the same heavy hitting riffs RA2 had and really goes well with the game. I remember starting a LAN game and the music almost sounded like jazz or classical music, but when we started attacking it was some crunchy riffs. I am really enjoying the soundtrack.

October 31, 2008

Games to Play Before January [No Life] | Posted at 2:29 PM

It is a good time to be a gamer but a horrible time to be a student. Alas, school is more important. That is, until winter break.

Here's what I'm playing right now, in my limited time available:

New Games

  • Fable 2
  • Far Cry 2
  • Fallout 3
  • Rock Band 2
  • Red Alert 3
  • COD: World At War Beta
  • Dead Space

Old Games

  • Boom Blox
  • Okami
  • Mario Kart Wii

Here's what's coming out soon (by the end of November) that I'll be playing (eventually):

  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Tom Clancy's EndWar
  • Gears of War 2
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Starcraft II
  • Prince of Persia

Not to mention Saints Row 2 which was already released but I haven't even got to yet. I mean, it's crazy, especially if you own a PS3 as well. Everyone wants to get Game of the Year but one thing is for sure, 2008 will go down in gaming history as giving birth to such amazing games.

I will have more than enough to do this break, no boring days for me!

PS. Penny Arcade pretty much summed up my feelings.

Gears of War 2 LAN Party and XNA Game Studio Presentation | Posted at 2:02 PM

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Whoo, I get to host a Gears of War 2 LAN party!

More details on Facebook!

I'm expecting a bunch of people to show up, I mean, we are giving away copies of the game. It should be a lot of fun.

First Impressions: Fallout 3 [Oh my] | Posted at 1:54 PM

Fallout 3

Well, it certainly is a month of rejoicing for gamers. Not only are there Fable 2 and Far Cry 2 to sink our teeth into, now we've got Bethesda's latest installment: Fallout 3. And let me tell you, this one's a doozy.

I've spent a good 4 or so hours on this game and I've only skimmed the surface, maybe not even the surface, the surface tension.

The first thing you realize when you start this game is that it is much more cinematic than previous Bethesda games. From the moment the classic retro music starts playing, you know that is will be an epic game. The tutorial sequence and introduction is beautifully crafted, very clever, and will stick with you, like how you can recite the intro dialog to Morrowind.

Unlike Oblivion, I would very much enjoy playing the introduction whenever I start a new character but there's no doubt that there will be a "Quick Play" mod to exit the vault faster.

Once you exit the vault, the whole scope of this game comes into focus. It's massive. To give you an idea, I played for 4 hours, I discovered 6 locations, and only one city (the first one, Megaton). About 2 and a half of those hours were spent doing one quest. It was awesome.

As with my previous posts, I will just go over some key areas that interested me, since I could write a lot about what I've played so far.

The Dialog

Remember when you played the Dark Brotherhood quests in Oblivion and realized that it was more fun than the main quest? A good chunk of that was due to the amazing dialog and writing. I'm glad to say that that's all of Fallout 3. The dialog and writing in this game are fantastic, engaging, and quirky. People have personality and I haven't run across the same voice yet. You can tell that Bethesda has tried their hardest to make Fallout 3 seem like a living, breathing world with different people and different personalities. Many, many lines of dialog were recorded in this game and depending on what you do, can be different each time you play.

Like previous Elder Scroll games, you can choose responses to dialog but this time, some choices are affected by your attributes or perks. Case in point, the Black Widow perk for women gives you special dialog choices when interacting with male characters. On the other side, the Lady Killer perk does the same for your male character.

Combat

You will realize almost right away that Fallout 3 is not your typical FPS. It is a step above Oblivion's ranged combat, so real-time shooting is definitely a plausible line of attack. However, I would say that the VATS system is infinitely more helpful during combat. VATS is the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. It lets you pause the game and target different enemy's body parts, using up Action Points in the process. Using up your AP will render VATS unusable until you wait a little while in real-time to regenerate your AP.

Whenever you use VATS, the game will choose a slow-motion cinematic camera angle to show off your skills. This makes for some awesome combat scenes, especially when you shoot off someone's head.

While in VATS, the game shows your percentage chance of hitting the different body parts. For those of us who thrive on leveling up our characters, this pleases the innate statistician in us. For other players, real-time combat can be just as fun and I use it all the time to snipe people with my rifle. Sometimes, though, VATS is useful when you're running low on ammo and need to act strategically. This brings me to another point…

Conserve your ammo in this game. Unless you are actively raiding out in the Wasteland, you will easily start running low on ammo. As with Oblivion, the easiest and cheapest way to stock up is to go adventuring. Guns will give in to disrepair quickly and you have to find other guns of the same type to repair them. I suggest putting a lot of points into your Repair skill, it will save you some precious caps. Each gun uses different ammo and there are lots of different types of guns. Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee, and Explosives are the different weapon types you'll encounter.

I only am starting out, so I've mostly been buying ammo from traders and store owners. I am praying that it will be easier to get ammo when I start adventuring.

Stealth, Stealing, and Hacking

Stealth is finally super-useful in this game! As with Oblivion, you will do critical hits when sneaking. The game will also warn you when an enemy is close to detecting you. Backstabbing someone is possible now and sneaking overall just seems more solid than in Oblivion.

Computer terminals are useful devices to unlock doors, gain quest secrets, and overall learning more about the world. Your Science skill helps your hacking. To hack a computer, you choose phrases or letters on the screen to guess a password. The game tells you how many characters in the string are correct, to help you narrow down the results. I've only been able to access Very Easy and Easy terminals, so the passwords aren't very long. You get 4 attempts and if you don't get it by the last attempt, you'll be locked out. The game is nice though and you can restart the mini-game anytime by accessing the computer again, but the phrases will be different.

Lockpicking is the classic bobby pin picking and stealing in the game is much, much better than Oblivion. You are free to sell anything you steal to anyone and if you're not seen, no one will know, just as it should be. Pick-pocketing is also fun, as long as you're careful. You know this game is amazing when you can put a live grenade in someone's shirt. KABOOM!

Atmosphere

Fallout 3 is all about atmosphere. The Capital Wasteland is a joy to explore and the post-apocalyptic landscape is ripe with fruit to pick. Cities, characters, locations, and enemies look like they belong. The feeling of starvation, of anxiety, of helplessness is palpable. Oblivion was basically cities and caves with trees in between. Fallout 3 actually feels like a cohesive world, where different places look different. You will remember landmarks and there's always stuff to find in nooks and crannies. And there are a lot of nooks and crannies. Detail is attended to here, even more than Morrowind I would say. Generous gifts are there for you to find if you know where to look.

Everything Else

I haven't even got to talk about the quests or other small details this game has to offer. The crazy, backwards physics in Oblivion are fixed here, things fall at the right speed. The character models look generally better overall, animations are still not Bethesda's specialty but nothing to rant about, and sound is used very well and has a very minimalistic philosophy in the game. The music is fantastic and really adds to the game. Making moral choices is fundamentally different than other games, sometimes it can be hard to be pure evil since people actually feel like they matter.

I have the PC version of the game and I can't complain about performance. It performs better than Oblivion, and I even have anti-aliasing enabled. Smooth framerates, minimal loading stutter, I am very happy with the optimizations. The graphics aren't Crysis but they are beautiful and dark, easily fitting for the atmosphere. You can see to the horizon, I have yet to see any fake distant landscapes/mountains that you can never reach. Everywhere you see, you can go.

Later in the month, I will be sure to record more of my thoughts about this game, as well as the mandatory One Sentence Review.

October 28, 2008

Impressions: Fable II and Far Cry 2 [Gaming] | Posted at 9:31 AM

Fable II

I bought Fable II from Amazon using "release-date delivery" and it came as promised.

I just recently played the original Fable for PC and I'm having a lot of fun with it, so I was excited to play Fable II. I also was caught up in the hype Peter generated about the game and I'm glad to see I wasn't disappointed.

Fable II is really made up of everything summed together. I love the art, I love my dog, I love the characters, and I love the voice acting. It's fantastic. There's a lot to say so I'll just focus on some key parts of the game that warrant my opinion.

The Doggy

I love my dog. His name is Pluto and he helps me find awesome treasure and helps me kill bad guys. Gotta love it. The dog is computer AI controlled and while that may sound sketchy as far as reliability, you can be sure Lionhead did a good job making sure your dog does what you expect it to. It won't get in your way (if it does, you can't damage it), it runs ahead of you, it sniffs around for treasure or digging spots, and it loves you. You don't have to worry about it following you, getting stuck, or getting lost while you run through an area.

The Golden Trail

I have mixed feelings about the Golden Trail. If you don't know what it is, whenever you have a quest, a golden trail of dust will appear showing you exactly where to go. This is helpful but you also will end up missing some cool side quests and treasure.

You can disable it, however. The problem I found is that while it was great being able to explore at will, the map is not friendly to you if you turn off the trail. It seemed like an afterthought. I would at least like to see where to go on the map if I turn off the trail since it's not labeled.

Combat

Combat in Fable 2 is quite simple on the surface. There are three buttons you use, X for melee, Y for ranged, and B for magic. The great thing is that there is no Will power/Magicka, instead you charge your magic attack to do more damage. Also, if you press the analog stick in a certain direction you perform a ranged magic attack otherwise you perform an Area spell.

For melee, there are only four weapon types: Rusty, Iron, Steel, and Master. The nice thing is that there are a lot of "augmentations" you can put on your weapons.

Ultimately, the combat in Fable II isn't super difficult but it's satisfying. People will fly around if you kill them with your sword, you can push people off cliffs, and you can use special "Flourish" attacks to finish off opponents (along with the classic sword impale).

That said, combat is significantly better than the PC version. You don't have to target people, your character will automatically target people but you can look around to target someone else. No button pressing to lock on. You press the attack buttons to do an attack and it feels fluid and easy, it doesn't feel clunky like Fable 1.

Spells are a little different, especially if you want to switch spells from a multitude of reserve spells. You have to press the D-pad to select other spells and this can detract from the fight especially if you can't remember what the icons mean.

The Changing World

Everything you do in Fable 2 affects the game world. There are certain transition times when the game takes into account what you did, for example coming back to Albion 10 years later. All the quests you did before you left have now affected the game world. Did you donate to the Temple of Light? Well now it's a massive complex. Did you help out the poor farmer? Well now he has a huge estate for you to purchase.

It's really, really cool. Not only do the towns change layout, the outside regions have morphed as well.

Everything Else

Fable 2 is fantastic. It has a beautiful art style and I thought the graphics were really nice all things considered. The sunlight filtering through the trees or town is very pretty.

Fable 2 also has its own feel, it doesn't feel like a rehash of another game… it definitely feels like Fable, looks like Fable and sounds like Fable. Excellent voice acting and hilarious writing, Lionhead didn't sweat the details.

That's another thing: in order to really appreciate Fable, you've got to explore and do everything. If you focus on the main quest, a lot of the game will pass you buy. Sometimes it's good to go off the beaten path. Marry, have kids, become a 5-star Blacksmith, teach your dog tricks, all of that stuff.

If you're worried about time, don't. I've played for about 12 hours now and I have been able to complete all the quests before the first time you leave Albion, and most of them afterward. However, I still haven't completed the main quest and every time you do another part, it adds more quests for you to do. Besides, you don't want it too long, do you? Then you won't want to start a new game and be evil.

I highly recommend this game.

Far Cry 2

I have to be honest, when I heard Ubisoft was doing an open-world shooter, I was very skeptical. However, when I sat down and played the game for about 2 hours, I realized how much fun I was having.

There's also a lot to this game, so I will again go over some key areas.

The Map

In Far Cry 2, the map is your indispensable companion. So, it was very fitting that Ubisoft made the map part of the game. You don't pause the game to view your map, instead it acts like an item which you take out while you walk or even drive. Yes, that's right, you can drive with your map out and you'll do this often. Just as in real life, you really can't view the map and drive easily at the same time. You're either driving or looking at your map and pretending to drive.

The game world is pretty big in FC2 and I've only gotten to a snippet of it. The map has locations of key things like health, ammo, guard posts, safe houses, towns, and other key points of interest. In that sense, Far Cry 2 resembles Oblivion where you discover things as you find them except that the locations are already marked. For example, the map will say there's a Guard Post ahead of you but you only find out what the guard post offers (health, explosives, ammo, etc) once you clear it out and poke around. Guard posts also offer a break in between driving to make you get out and shoot stuff. Alternatively, you could try and drive past and initiate a chase which can be fun.

The Immersion

Ubisoft did an amazing job with the immersion in this game. Everything you do is from your perspective and your view is not static. When you go into a house, you see yourself turning the handle, when you get into a jeep, you see yourself hopping in. Even when you switch to the jeep's machine gun and jump off, you do it. It makes you feel like you're really there. Even the weapon jamming and vehicle breakdowns are part of the experience.

Your malaria is another thing. Your vision gets blurry and pulsates when you need your pills. Usually this is remedied by just hitting H to take your pills. I haven't progressed far enough to see this as a problem (i.e. running out of pills?).

Buddies in the game are great as well. One of your buddies will come rescue you and help you if you "die." You have to visit them to make them "rescue-ready" again.

The RPG

I wouldn't call FC2 an RPG in the same sense Fallout 3 is. However, you do find diamonds which is your form of payment, and you can buy upgrades to your weapons, items, and vehicles. You can buy ammo bandoliers to carry extra ammo, you can by accuracy upgrades for your weapons, and you can build a collection of weapons.

In FC2, you can always pick up weapons from enemies. However, they are usually bad and old so they jam often. Instead, you can visit your safe house or an armory to exchange your weapons for new ones. Once you purchase a weapon at the Arms Dealer, you get unlimited quantities of that gun in your armory. Arms Dealers and Armories are always in the same location and there are many spread about. You can do missions for the Arms Dealers to gain more weapons.

In the case of the map, I already talked about how you "unlock" guard posts after finding out what they off. You also unlock Safe Houses by killing the enemies guarding them. In this aspect, FC2 has some elements of an RPG.

It should also be noted that enemies respawn. I've yet to find this annoying since I really do enjoy sniping guard posts from afar, or just driving in the middle of them and using my flamethrower or machine gun.

Fast travel is available if you use the bus stations (there are 5 in the game). They let you travel to the 4 corners of the map and the central city.

Everything Else

I haven't played a FPS in awhile that has kept me interested for multiple hours on end. While some may complain about repetitive enemy fights I find them enjoyable and I like to drive around in my jeep or go-cart. I actually really love the graphics, they make Africa come alive.

As with Fable 2, I highly recommend this game.

September 12, 2008

First Impressions: Star Wars the Force Unleashed [Dark Side] | Posted at 10:08 AM

image

So I downloaded the Star Wars Force Unleashed demo yesterday after reading on Kotaku that it had been released a few days ago (I'm behind on news).

What can I say about the demo… it's awesome? Besides a few things like how it takes a bit to get used to force throwing and how there are many repetitive items strewn about, the gameplay itself is very satisfying. Throwing stuff at enemies, slicing them up, electrocuting them, and pushing them off walkways never gets old. I really like the combo system I saw and I wasn't paying too much attention but it looks like you level up. I will definitely be playing the demo through again.

I really look forward to renting the game eventually, since I doubt I'd want to play it through multiple times. But who knows, it might be so good I'll just buy it. Not right away, though… that honor goes to Rock Band 2 and other anticipated games in October.

September 10, 2008

Fix: BioShock Crashing On Startup [Tips & Tricks] | Posted at 3:57 PM

Recently a friend of mine tried to install BioShock and play it on his newly minted computer.

However, when he started the game, it would crash right on startup.

How to fix it?

Install the latest DirectX Runtime update.

Almost monthly Microsoft releases new DirectX updates, so make sure it's all up-to-date! After he did that, it worked fine.

August 26, 2008

B.C. Before Crysis: Thief III Deadly Shadows [Look Back] | Posted at 12:42 AM

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I was fervently following the Half-Life 2 mania like everyone else. I used to frequent the forums a lot, it’s kind of sad. Well, IGN had a sweepstakes going on that they’d draw a random member and they got to pick their top 5 games and IGN would send them for free.

On one cold night I was that winner. Out of the 5 games I got, 3 were some of the best games I’ve ever played to-date. One was Beyond Good & Evil, one was Half-Life 2, and…

One was Thief III.

Thief III cover

I can hear the collective cries of reviewers and critics the world ‘round. What the hell? Yes, I think that Thief III was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had, ever. I’ll tell you why.

Story

I own Thief: The Dark Project and I was always caught by its narrative. I still mean to play it through. In Thief III the narrative was one of the focuses of the game and as such it played an important role.

I think, for me, the reason I enjoyed the story so much was the drama and the whole creepy aspect to it. I felt like I was Garret, that I felt Garret’s feelings, and it just really pulled me into the game. I think that without the story I would never have finished it.

I think my feelings about this are similar to my feelings about Dreamfall. You either like it or don’t and that decides whether you’ll finish the game or not. From my first experience with the demo, I knew that I wanted this game and I was not let down.

The plot twist at the end had me surprised, I have to admit. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Atmosphere

I exclusively played Thief III on my headphones. I think that this was around the time I bought my X-Fi sound card so I wanted to take full advantage of it. The sound in this game is phenomenal. It adds so much it’s not even funny. I couldn’t imagine playing with the sound turned way down or muted, it just wouldn’t be the same.

There is one level, the Shalebridge Cradle, that stands out the most. In fact, if there was one reason you should play this game, it’s because of that level. I don’t think there has ever been one level, one experience, that can fully match the experience of the Cradle.

The Cradle is the scariest, creepiest, spine-tingling, piss your pants worthy level ever developed. It’s creepier than any movie I’ve ever seen. I had never experienced anything like it and I never have since. You know why? Not only is it an abandoned orphanage but children disappeared out of nowhere and they kept mental patients in there.

Maybe it was the slow melodic dripping of leaky pipes, maybe it was the soft creaking of floorboards when no one was around, maybe it was the whispering wind curling through cracks in the walls, maybe it was the distant screams of abandoned orphans or the wailing of mental ward patients, but if a developer could win an E3 award for "Best Level That Scared You Shitless"? than Eidos would win it for the Cradle.

Here’s what makes the Cradle such a masterful level. It makes you keep going. There is something about the level that just keeps you going through it, unable to quit and sob in your mother’s open arms. Oh, you want to. Oh, how you want to. But you can’t. I couldn’t. It scared the hell out of me but unlike most horror games where I can’t go further, it beckoned me like a silent, unconscious command.

The Stealth

I am a big fan of stealth gameplay. Eidos are the masters of the stealth game. The only other stealth games I played to the end were Splinter Cell’s Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory.

There is just something about sneaking around, trying not to get caught, and narrowly avoiding guards that I love. That’s not for everyone. One of my friends hates stealth games. I love them.

Thief was always about the stealth. You had your trusty blackjack and your bow to take out enemies silently.

It may be that you could probably run really fast to get past people but I always like to go slow, to scan my environment, and go at my own pace. Maybe that’s why I love stealth gameplay, because I don’t have to rush… I can beat the game at my own pace. There are moments where you have to run for dear life and I really enjoy those. The moments where you’re almost dead or almost caught but then you get some stroke of luck.

The Gameplay

And now we come to the meat and potatoes of all games: the gameplay. I think this is where most reviewers and gamers called Thief out. Since I haven’t played much of the original Thief games I cannot attest to its similarity or differences compared to previous installments.

There were a number of problems that kept Thief III from being a perfect game but I felt that the pros outweighed the cons.

Dumb AI

So, I plan to eventually replay the game on a higher difficulty because I played on Easy and it was way easy. Classic moments always include making lots of noise and then having a guard come over and claim, "It must have been a rat,"? and walk away/you stab him.

Dumb Physics

This game had flawed physics. Well, maybe not flawed, but easily forgettable and it didn’t provide any sort of gameplay mechanic. It’s like it was just there.

Animations

I think the game lacked good mocap considering character animations looked pretty silly.

It didn’t seem like any of this was a real dealbreaker for me. I still heavily enjoyed the game.

The Detail

I mean "detail"? in a game design sort of way, not necessarily the game world. One could argue that Thief III is not a dense game world, in fact, it’s fairly sparse considering you can’t enter most of the buildings. However, there are a lot of places to go for the story and while some people disliked the whole centralized city idea I really liked it.

The one part of the game that really surprised me in a good way was the "death"? mechanic. When I would be killed I was used to the regular routine of loading up a saved checkpoint. But one time I was killed and I just left it… and I woke up in jail.

Yes, that’s right, when you died in Thief III they locked you in jail. And it wasn’t just a "grab a key and walk out,"? no, it was an entire level! I was really surprised and that’s when I realized how great a game Thief III really is. Instead of just having a player die… they give him something to do.

I wouldn’t call Thief III a short game which I am glad for. I put a lot of time into that game and I bet half of it was me just taking my time sneaking around. The added jail level made the game even longer.

Conclusion

So that’s why I consider Thief III an amazing game. Maybe it had a lot of flaws but it delivered, to me, a very rich interactive narrative. It enticed me to keep playing, it was creepy as hell, and its stealth gameplay was a lot of fun.

Stay tuned for a look back on Beyond Good & Evil, one of the most underrated and overlooked games ever.

August 24, 2008

Impressions: Red Alert 3 Beta [Better than C&C3] | Posted at 8:08 PM

Updated: I updated this to be less unfair to the game. The original was written when I was in a bad mood.

I usually form an impression of a game within the first 30 minutes.

  • C&C Red Alert: Awesome
  • C&C Tiberian Sun: Extra awesome
  • C&C Red Alert 2: Super awesome
  • C&C Red Alert 2 YR: Epic awesome
  • C&C Generals: Fail
  • C&C Generals ZH: Less fail
  • C&C 3: Ok
  • C&C Red Alert 3: Alright?

So I got the RA3 beta invite yesterday and I sat down to play a game today. I played one game, it’s multiplayer only, and let me just say going into this that I heavily dislike multiplayer RTS games mostly because I am not good against humans. You won’t ever find me playing online with an RTS, only LAN.

That said, I am not trying to outright say Red Alert 3 is a disappointment just yet but I will walk you through my impressions. I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt and say that single-player may prove to be a fun experience but I wasn’t really that impressed with the multiplayer for my first go. I will play with it some more but I did have my brother play it and he didn't like it so we'll see where it goes.

Before I continue let me say a few things to those who will inevitably criticize my point of view:

  • You and me like different things in a game, thus I don’t care if you like it, I don’t. EA can never appeal to all of us.
  • This is from the perspective of a first-time player. Chock it all up to the fact I suck if you want (I do), but what will the opinion be of other newbies to the game?
  • I am lazy and don’t want to perfect my multiplayer gaming skills because I have things to do, so I realize that there are many strategies to doing things and I hope I can learn them when I buy the game.
  • This relates to above but this is just a rant at its core and I know I'll pick the game up if not for just being curious.

Here is a list of things I didn’t like during my first game. Much of this is nit-picky fanboyism but I am a picky person:

  • Didn’t feel like classic C&C. It didn’t even feel like Red Alert. No garrison-able buildings in my vicinity that offered useful protection, no funny civilians flailing about, no destroyable cars to pilot or play with, the atmosphere was just missing that classic RA2 feel which I loved. This might have just been the map and other maps might be better, but I didn't see any so there.
  • Takes forever to make money. I guess you’re supposed to have two ore refineries to make money and like 4 prospectors (ore miners), but seriously, all I needed in RA2 was one refinery and 2 miners and I was good to go.
  • Perhaps too-similar buildings. In all the good C&C games you could ALWAYS tell what a building was for. In RA3 and C&C3 sometimes you can get confused. I know I found myself trying to remember what building I was looking at. If you look at this screenshot, you can tell the top two buildings are a power plant and war factory, but what about the other two in the water (disregarding the power plant)? I only played once but I can’t tell you, but maybe it’s because they are the water-equivalents of certain land buildings.
  • No deployable GIs or units. One of my favorite things about RA2 was deployable GIs… if only for that silly sound effect they make when they deploy. They were also awesome and owned.
  • Air units might be too powerful. Four bombers, $1200 each, can take out my MCV. In RA2 I needed 7 Black Eagles to destroy one MCV and they had hardly any health. It took 8 regular aircraft to do the same. They send 4 bombers and they destroy half my base, and they just don’t die. Not. Cool. Also, let me expand further, I had a bunch of RPG guys AND missile launchers AND IFVs with missile guys and they still got through. This might be a new balance issue so that aircraft can be more effective but damn!
  • Sidebar: I miss the static C&C sidebar. I realize people want to see more of the map but what made a C&C game a C&C game and not some other RTS clone? That sidebar. I want it back, damn it. I realize that, yes, other RTSs like Dawn of War, Warcraft III, and AoE have static interfaces… but of the RTS I have played, C&C always had the unique side UI.
  • No countries: The countries were a great dynamic in RA2 that was really nice. Even though the only difference was really special units, it was still a nice touch. In RA3, they have these "top secret protocol"? things that are basically general powers… but most of them suck.
  • Third side: Japan? Seriously? Yuri was the sweetest added-in side of all time. That expansion seriously added a crap-load of features into the game that made it fricking amazing. I haven’t played  Japan side yet (so take this with a grain of salt)  but it seems to me that they can’t be as cool as Yuri was. I want mind control, damn it! Well, I hope they prove me wrong.

So, I may be too harsh (I am) considering this is a multiplayer-only beta… but I already know I won’t be playing it online with other people (but that isn't saying much anyway). LAN? Sure... I wish I could play with it by myself and not have someone kick my ass right away. Such is being a n00b.

I admit that all that above is negative and probably unfair, so I'll list some things I did like:

  • Menu: The menu is great, if not for the super-awesome music ala Red Alert 2.
  • SFX: I like the unit voices and sound effects, I am glad they kept some from previous games.
  • Music: Yes! Sounds very Red Alert, I love it.
  • Color: Finally, a game with color! I liked the rich colors they decided on, it made everything pop out a lot more.
  • Navy: Now the Navy is a viable attack/defense option. Naval units pretty much were useless in previous RA installments except for maybe the carrier and boomer subs. Boomer subs were pretty rigged, though.
  • No service depots: The service depot was a silly idea. I am glad they kept one of the good features of Generals: the repair drones. Also you can build an MCV with minimum prerequisites.
  • Terror drones in the water: Two words: Friggin' awesome.
  • Voice: This was in C&C 3 but I am glad they have VoIP support.
  • Hotkeys: This was also in C&C 3 but having hotkeys makes for good programmable macro combos. I have 3 set up in C&C 3 to make each side's base in the minimum amount of time possible.
  • Live cutscenes: I am so glad they brought this back with C&C 3 because that was a hallmark of classic Red Alert. Sure, they are cheesy as hell but they're so awesome.
  • Superweapons: I only saw the Chronosphere and Iron Curtain in action but I am glad they kept them. There are tons of great strategies to use them with.

If you liked C&C 3, which I did up to a certain point, you will probably like this game. If, however, you are a die-hard classic pre-EA-only C&C fan like me, you probably will be disheartened but perhaps a little less considering it’s still recognizably Red Alert.

I honestly can’t really pin down why EA hasn’t been able to make me feel like I’m in the classic C&C experience. I think it’s because even since the original C&C, Westwood had a sense of humor that you could see throughout their games. Their level design was masterful and their maps were rich with things other than your or your enemy’s units. I don’t see any of that. I don’t see the little monkey scratching his butt near a palm tree, or an alligator that tries to eat my GIs, or a civilian getting pissed and shooting me with his crappy pistol, and the awesome Hollywood stars that had frickin’ awesome weapons. I mean there was always some scenic thing going on that just isn’t as apparent in EA’s games. Tiberian Sun was the same way with its mutated civilians, etc.

I’m not saying there wasn’t any humor in C&C 3 and maybe there is in RA3 (hopefully) but I can't recall anything specific. That's probably because I didn't play C&C 3 as much as other games. Of course, considering C&C 3's storyline there wasn't much room for humor ala RA.

Also, RA2’s missions weren’t just about destroying the enemy base. A lot of the missions had different goals, like sneaking past defenses, escorting a convoy, etc. Although I enjoy destroying bases I liked when it shook it up because it didn’t feel like I was just playing a skirmish.

Anyway, back to RA3. I am hoping single-player will be more refined. I am willing to hope and I may end up getting RA3 when it comes out or just trying it out to see what the campaign is like. I don’t think Red Alert 2 was a perfect game… I mean MP was like, "Ok I am ready to die in 5 minutes."? That’s what turned me off from it. That’s what turned me off of multiplayer RTS gaming period. The only RTS game I might play is Warcraft III but that’s because the games are all mods like DoTA or Tower Defense. When it comes to RTS, single-player is where its at for me. In that regard, I am willing to suspend my hatred until I get to play RA3’s campaign.

Overall I think RA3 is a better game at its core than C&C 3. I haven't played enough to fully write out my opinions but for a first impression it didn't bode well. There are a few factors that might have contributed to that and it would be:

  • I don't know the sides very well. I haven't played all of them nor do I know the best way to build a base yet.
  • The people I was playing against were really good and they kicked me and my teammate's ass.
  • I suck at multiplayer RTS. It's true.
  • Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking and my denial of change to the series I love.

If you've played the beta and you like it, it's probably because you've played it more than I have, in fact I pretty much guarantee it. Once I've played at least 10 games or so I will post an updated (and hopefully more accurate) impression.

August 20, 2008

Hell Hath Frozen Over: All Fake Musical Instruments Are Compatible [Amazingness] | Posted at 10:29 AM

Peace Ninjas; Credit: JoyStiq.com

I was hoping to hear this news… a bit ago, Sony announced that the PS3 versions of Rock Band, GH:WT, and Rock Revolution instruments will be fully compatible with each other.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft announced today that they are also cool and the Xbox 360 versions will be fully compatible as well!

You know what this means, right? Now there’s no excuse whatsoever not to get Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour.

[via JoyStiq]

August 12, 2008

Braid, Flogging Molly, Football, and so on… [Fun Weekends] | Posted at 12:03 AM

Braid

I was introduced to Braid through a friend of mine, who said it was “an amazing concept for a game.? I had heard mention of this beast in Penny Arcade’s news post, but only fleetingly.

So Saturday I sat down and played the Trial Demo. I instantly liked it. I bought it and I’m still working on it. I’m on World 5 now, and damn it’s getting tough.

Basically the whole mechanic Braid relies on is time manipulation. At first, it’s pretty simple… you can rewind time and you use it to get to the puzzle pieces. However, each world gets increasingly more complicated. By World 4, I was scratching my head and wondering what the hell. First, there are objects that are sparkly green which are not affected by time. Second, at some points you have to rewind time very fast before a door closes or a platform returns to its position. Then, you have to use enemies as allies, to get keys in hard to reach spaces. Now I am at the point where there is a shadow dimension, and when you rewind time, your shadow does what you did in the future. It makes it way more complicated.

The price for the game is $15. To some people, this is the end of the world. While they are fine paying for their fast food and their carbonated soda, they shun the notion of paying $15 for a quality game. Here’s the thing: Braid is a good game. Some have mentioned that it’s just a Flash-game lookalike. So… because a game is 2D, it must mean that it’s a Flash rip-off? Last time I checked there were a few consoles way back in the day that did something akin to 2D games. But wait, silly me, I forgot that Flash invented the 2D platformer! Besides the fact that most flash games are stupid and poorly designed, what does it matter? It wasn’t created by a teenager in his mom’s basement. It was created by an independent developer who paid money and spent time to make the game.

My point is that $15 isn’t a whole lot to pay. It’s one dinner at a restaurant. It’s one and a half albums. It’s two outings to Arby’s. It’s a new movie. However you want to view it, it’s not that much. Don’t you have a job or something? That’s 1.5-2 hours of work or less! If you spent 2 hours making the money to buy it and you get 6+ hours of entertainment out of it, doesn’t that pay for itself?

Irish Fest

The other thing I did this weekend was go to Irish Fest and see Flogging Molly. I’ve seen them before when they came to the U but this was a different beast.

It was a lot of fun. I got a keychain with my Irish family name on it, Gallagher.

Keychain

I also went with my girlfriend, her mom, and my other two friends so I was surrounded by pretty women.

Irish Fest 075

That tall guy in the upper right with the white shirt was pretty high the whole time.

Needless to say, Flogging Molly was awesome. Here follow some photos of the event:

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-18 PM

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-38 PM

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-44 PM

My camera can’t take the best pictures… my friend had the nice camera:

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-32 PM

It was a lot of fun and I was just glad I got to go this year. Parking over on Harriet Island was tough but we found a good place that had a lot of spaces open and wasn’t too far away.

The crowd during the show was crazy. We weren’t super close but we were in that zone of people who want to get closer, so we were continuously pushing people around. My girlfriend went back earlier to get water and had a tough time finding us, but she did and after a short while moved back to a more relaxed portion of the crowd to properly enjoy the show. Since you can’t get out of there without shoving people aside, some guy took offense to me trying to burrow my way through, but he let me through anyway even though he tried to shove me back a bit. I’m sorry I had to push you, sir, but suck it, I had my girlfriend in tow.

Football

I went to the Vikings pre-season game last, when was it, Friday? Yes, that’s it. My friend’s family had extra tickets so I went with her. I had never been to a football game before so I decided I’d try something new. It was interesting, to say the least. I know the mechanics of the game so I understood what was happening but I still enjoy watching basketball more. The football crowd, however, is more entertaining. Lots of drunk people saying nonsense.

There were some guys to the upper left of us who were hilarious, though. They were smashed but they were funny, not unfunny obnoxious-like. The guys behind us were obnoxious and only slightly funny. One of them asked me who I thought would make it to play-offs: Vikings or Dallas. Not really caring or knowing much about such matters, I just said Vikings, to which one guy nodded his head in enigmatic agreement and the other saying that I was “smoking? and “high on shit,? but in a joking sort of way. I wasn’t about to argue.

Of course, if you followed the game, you know what we lost… which wasn’t a massive surprise. We left close to the end, though about half the stadium beat us to it.

Aquatennial

Earlier in the month we went to the Aquatennial fireworks display, reportedly the fifth best in the nation, according to my buddy. They were fantastic, that’s for sure! I didn’t get to see any fireworks on the 4th, so this substituted very well instead.

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-50 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-54 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-57 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-01 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-07 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-12 PM

Besides the big tree in the way, it was superb.

August 2, 2008

Impressions: Soul Calibur IV | Posted at 1:14 AM

image

Yes, they are mostly good.

I spent about 6-7 hours today with the game, with a friend. It’s not naturally a co-op game but it worked out beautifully taking turns, creating our own characters, and unlocking content.

The Good

  • The character customization saves this from being “just another Soul Calibur.? It seriously is awesome.
  • Graphics are fantastic and colorful. Great in the world of drab lookalike games.
  • Tons of combos and moves… even if some characters are clones of each other.
  • Use of leveling, equipment, weapons, styles, and skills is a great addition to gameplay, making it a lot more deep and faux-RPG.
  • Challenging. We played Arcade mode a few times and there were many moments where we almost wanted to chuck the controller and game out the window. We made it though.

The Bad

  • No “Adventure Mode.? Maybe it was just me but that’s all I played Soul Calibur II for. It was the closest a fighting game came to being an RPG. Thinking of how it would have worked in SCIV makes me cry for its lack of being.
  • No co-op leveling in story mode, arcade, versus, or tower of chaos mode. That would have been a lot of fun, fighting each other to level up or if that’s too unfair, tag-teaming in arcade/story mode to level up would have been a nice feature.
  • Story Mode is just cheesy and lame… but it is kinda fun.

We didn’t get a change to test Online Mode because we lacked an Ethernet upstairs at my friend’s house neither did we tackle the Tower of Chaos. It speaks volumes that we were able to stay entertained and addicted to Story Mode and Character Customization.

All in all I was very satisfied with my purchase even if it fell short of an amazing game and turned out to be a great game.

There is definitely playability to this game, as you gain better equipment by unlocking more achievements. It encourages you to be good at it and it rewards you properly for your efforts. Character Customization is so much fun… we pimped out a few characters and I created my own character, “Hulk,? that I plan to develop diligently.

July 30, 2008

There is a God! Morroblivion Converts Morrowind to Oblivion’s Engine! | Posted at 11:11 AM

OK, this is seriously freaking awesome. I hope some blogs out there start writing about this because this is one of the coolest mods ever.

For all of us who loved Morrowind but disliked Oblivion somewhat, this could be our salvation! Morroblivion takes on the daunting task of converting all Morrowind files to work with Oblivion...

You can already download the latest builds to try it out and since I'm at work I can't...

Even if we have to use Oblivion-type methods for the menus and alchemy, etc, it will still be awesome… since I do like the Oblivion combat system, alchemy system, magic system, etc.

The tool will convert Morrowind, but to actually play it you need the Morroblivion Expansion mod. This is the mod that will deliver us the true Morrowind game itself.

If you’re a modder or a programmer or whatever, I would offer your help to these guys… the potential for this is huge!

Done right this could be RPG nirvana.

[Welcome to Morroblivion via Morroblivion]

Update: Looks like me and my friend succeeded in getting this posted at Kotaku, FTW!

July 24, 2008

GH:WT to be Compatible with Rock Band Instruments | Posted at 2:10 PM

At E3, Activition has said that Guitar Hero: World Tour will be compatible with non-GH instruments, meaning that the Xbox 360 version will be compatible with Rock Band 1 instruments.

If I can seriously buy GH: WT and use my existing instruments, it’s an instant buy!

[GH: World Tour Open to Rock Band Instruments via Kotaku]

July 15, 2008

E3: Fallout 3, RE 5, Mirror’s Edge, Fable 2, GoW 2, FF XIII, and more… | Posted at 12:41 PM

Wow, E3 has been revealing quite a few gems this year. I am excited for many of the games to come out…

Fallout 3

I mean, really, I think most people are looking forward to Fallout 3. It just looks cool. I’ve played the original Fallout but never got into it a lot… mostly because I am lazy. However, I really do like it and I am excited about F3. It’s interesting to see the VAT system where you can pause the game and target specific body parts. It looks like the cinematic angles only come into play when you use VAT.

I think the Bethesda team is having fun with this one. In Oblivion there wasn’t much gore but in Fallout 3 they are going … all out (sorry). I think they’ll be fixing issues that Oblivion had but it’s not an Elder Scrolls game so it’s not like we’ll have sword issues or something.

Resident Evil 5

I’m a huge fan of RE 4. I mean, seriously, that game is amazing. I don’t ever play horror games but something about Resident Evil 4 made it amazing and something I couldn’t pass up. I didn’t play Doom 3 because it freaked me out. RE 4 was scary too but not in the same way. RE 5 looks to be the same way and I’m glad. It looks so familiar that I’m sure it will be just as good if not better than 4.

Mirror’s Edge

There seems to be mixed feelings about this. Mirror’s Edge is basically a game heavily involving the discipline of parkour. Parkour is where you don’t let anything in your environment get in the way of where you want to go. Scale a wall, jump on rooftops, etc.

I think with Mirror’s Edge the developers are focused mainly on narrative rather than compelling gameplay. Still, the gameplay doesn’t look boring. I think as long as there are multiple paths then it won’t feel so linear.

Fable 2

I own Fable. That doesn’t mean I beat it… I didn’t. I’ve been meaning too, I really have. I got about 3 hours into it and left it for some other games. I like the game, though, it’s a solid one. Fable 2 looks to be a lot of the same but with more polish and adventure.

Gears of War 2

I have not played Gears of War solidly through to the end. I’ve played the beginning, middle, and end at different times either by myself or co-op. I know it’s a great game and I am excited about GoW 2.

Final Fantasy XIII

I’ve never really played anything beyond FF1. I realize that FF7 is like “the greatest thing ever? but I never got around to it. I don’t have a PS2 or PS3 and I don’t want to play it on PC. I’ve been offered to borrow the games from my friends to play and now since my girlfriend owns a PS2 maybe I will get around to playing it.

That said, since FFXIII is coming to 360, I will most definitely be picking it up.

July 14, 2008

Xbox 360: New Dashboard, NetFlix, and more… | Posted at 6:54 PM

The interwebs are abuzz with E3 information. Personally I don’t follow it much because I can’t keep up. However I did read about Microsoft’s presentation.

The Xbox 360 will be getting some cool new features come Fall, including a new dashboard, avatars, gameshows, NetFlix streaming, and some other neat things.

I am excited about NetFlix streaming. I know there’s a plug-in for Media Center from a 3rd party… but I don’t have Windows Media Center so having it built-in to the Xbox will be sweet.

The gameshow idea is interesting. Apparently it will be social games that you can compete in to win prizes. Crazy.

As for avatars, I guess that’s cool but I’m not really sure what purpose they’ll serve. They look better than Miis but still.

What I am really excited about is Rock Band 2 in September. They released the official track list and it looks awesome. Judas Priest, Motorhead, Megadeth, Metallica, Dream Theater, Dylan, Journey, I mean… damn, it’s all there. Some tracks are questionable as to why they chose them… I assume it’s because of better band playability not popularity. Painkiller is definitely an awesome track, but Battery by Metallica? I guess I would have chosen differently. Still, it’s a good track list. I will end up getting the newer drum set because mine are too loud and I want the new ones. I’ll also be getting another guitar, the new RB2 one. It was good that I held out buying a second guitar!

Harmonix said that you will be able to port most RB 1 tracks over to RB 2, which means you don’t have to carry around an extra CD, good news. But really, how hard is it to put both game CDs into one case?

The $300 premium Ion drum kit looks fantastic. If only I had that much money to spend on an instrument I would get it. The fact is, I’m not even to Expert drums yet. I don’t think I would be using them to the full extent unless I was good enough to warrant it.

July 3, 2008

Dear Blizzard: RE: Diablo 3 Art Style | Posted at 9:47 AM

Dear Blizzard,

I think I’ve finally figured out my stance on the Diablo 3 art. When I first saw the Diablo 3 movies, I was totally fine with the art style. However, upon actually looking at the edited screenshots, I have to say that the edited art direction really feels more like Diablo than the current one.

I know that you will never redo the entire art asset base just because a portion of the Diablo-playing fans want a grittier look. That said, the petition has many good points, namely that Diablo is not Warcraft and needs an even more independent art style. I’ve said in the past that it doesn’t really matter or that we shouldn’t be complaining since Diablo III is actually coming out but upon further reflection I can see why this is significant. For those that are diehard fans of Diablo, the art style is one of the signature components of the franchise, so in honor of previous Diablo games, the third installment should stay true to the art style.

I believe (and others believe) that there is a common middle ground that can be reached. Why not add an option to use a simple saturation/contrast/brightness filter to give the game the same look that the photoshopped images represent?

I think that that would be the easiest way to address this “problem.? You will continue working on your art and though some people may not care those that do and for those that want a darker feel, the option is there. It would be a simple addition and since many games have graphical modifiers, I don’t think it would be too much work.

Here you can find the petition, at the time of writing with 24,000 signatures.

For your consideration,

Kamran Ayub

Screenshots:

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June 30, 2008

Well, I’m Getting Rock Band 2 | Posted at 8:45 AM

rock_band_2

IGN has an interview with one of the lead designers of Rock Band for information about Rock Band 2. All I needed to know was a few key things:

Will Rock Band 1 DLC be playable in Rock Band 2?
"Yes."

"And yes, all of your Rock Band instruments will still work with Rock Band 2."

That’s all. Everything else I know will be bigger, badder, and sweeter. But as long as I can slowly upgrade my instruments, one at a time, then I’m sold.

You can pick it up in September.

[via IGN]

June 28, 2008

Retro Gaming: Day of the Tentacle | Posted at 11:02 PM

image

Thanks to this Flickr set posted on Digg, I downloaded Day of the Tentacle for DOS yesterday. I seriously played it for like 6 hours straight. It’s a lot of fun and challenging (for me?). I had to peek at a walkthrough a couple times (only in dire circumstances!)


DoTT is from the mind of Tim Schafer. You may know him as the idea and go-to guy for Penny Arcade Adventures and many other awesome adventure games including Monkey Island and Psychonauts. I fished out my The Curse of Monkey Island CD that my friend borrowed to me years ago so that I could install it. I had installed it on a computer at some point a long time ago and never made it past the opening scene. Hopefully I will be able to now!

If you want to play (and you should) do this:

  1. Download it at this site. It’s abandonware so it’s free. Click the Download link under the game title.
  2. Download DosBox to play the game.
  3. Run DosBox.
  4. Type in “mount c c:\dott? or the path to wherever you extracted the files. I recommend a short directory. Mine is in D:\Games\DoTT so my DosBox command is:

    mount d d:\games\dott
  5. Type in “d:?
  6. Type in “tentacle.exe? and play!

Here is the list of keyboard commands. Have fun!

Time to Play Some Diablo II, Huh? | Posted at 1:48 PM

I am going off to my best friend’s high school graduation party today but since I have yet to leave I am pouring over all the Diablo III screenshots and videos. I am downloading the 800MB 19-minute HD footage right now, in fact. It should finish when I get home.

So now this means that I will have to finish Diablo II with my friends on the Nightmare difficulty since we finished it on the easiest.

One thing that I think is silly is the fact that many of the people who were going to kill because they wanted Diablo III are now claiming to be angry at the footage of D3 for small changes. There’s no pleasing you, is there? If you wanted a Diablo II clone, play Diablo II. Blizzard isn’t going to release Diablo II in new clothes, they are going to spice things up a bit.

D3 is an entirely new engine, new particle effects, new everything. It’s not just “Diablo II in 3D,? since that would be a waste of effort. If you’re going to create a new engine you’re going to add new gameplay elements. The whole idea of environmental physics sounds awesome, destructible elements, etc.

The beauty of it is, it’s good it looks so much like Diablo II. D2 is a tried-and-true formula, a top-notch game. It has its own feel and D3 looks to match it. If they had added radical new changes some people claim to want, those same people would probably be mad if they did. Blizzard knows what fans want and they’ll deliver. They know how to keep the same feel for the game.

Just stop pouting and be happy that there is a Diablo III!

It’s Diablo 3. Told You So. | Posted at 9:20 AM

diablo3

Who called it? Oh, that’s right, me. And many other people. I am so fucking excited I just swore.

[Diablo 3 via Blizzard]

June 27, 2008

Blizzard Splash Image: Starcraft, Lich King & Diablo? | Posted at 3:40 PM

There’s a lot of speculation on what the Blizzard splash image is. Now it’s Day Five and there is a strong indication it’s just about Starcraft II. I think it’s a little more than that.

Day Five Splash Image

First, the eyes look just like the Protoss image that Kotaku compares it to and the Lich King’s face which I think is supposed to be ambiguous to point at both of them:

Protoss and Lich King eyes

And the rune in the bottom left is easily this same one in this image pointed about by this astute commenter for the Protoss from SCII:

Protoss Rune

The rune on the top right is definitely the “Hel? rune from Diablo II:

Diablo II Hel Rune

The rune on the left is obviously the rune on the Lich King’s sword:

Lich King Sword Rune

As for the other runes, well I think it’s apparent that we’re dealing with more than just a Starcraft II announcement.

Remember, June 29th is Diablo II’s 8th anniversary and the Diablo3.com site was just bought by Blizzard.

Here’s what I think:

  • They will announce information for Lich King
  • They will announce a release date for Starcraft II
  • They will announce Diablo III

Furthermore, if you connect the runes together with straight lines, you get a pentagram. If they just decided to put five runes on the image then that really doesn’t matter, but if it was on purpose perhaps there’s more to the story.

If you were Blizzard and you wanted to announce Diablo III, you would know that tons of people would be psyched. Why in the hell would you reveal that for sure outside of the official announcement? My take would be to do exactly what they’re doing. Make the splash image primarily focused on another previously-announced game and incorporating subtle elements of a surprise to come. Since Diablo III isn’t the main take on this image, it could very well be a sly maneuver to hint at it.

All I am saying is that it would awesome if there is going to be a 3rd Diablo. The splash image has elements of Starcraft, WoW, and Diablo. Am I really that crazy?

PS. Check out some of these old responses to the first day that the Starcraft II countdown began, another splash image fiasco:

“It will almost definitely be something in the diablo series. Might as well accept it now. Blizzard cannot release a Starcraft game because they lack the resources to make it properly.?

“I highly doubt it will be Starcraft related. Either Diablo, or milking their precious WoW some more.?

Little did they know.

We’ll see how this ends up tomorrow.

Update: Uh huh, see what I'm talking about? I am probably not the first to claim a tri-announcement:

Blizzard WWI

Thank you to this Kotaku reader for pointing it out.

This definitely means something related to all three franchises I mentioned. Diablo III is upon us [I hope]!

Ubisoft: 20 minutes of Far Cry 2 | Posted at 1:49 PM

Wow. Far Cry 2 might actually be as good or better than Crysis. And by Fall I should have the horsepower to run it properly.

http://www.shackvideo.com/?id=12374

I feel like the same thing they said about Assassin’s Creed, it being an open world and such, will still come up with the same problem. Too much fluff that just gets in the way of going places. What good is it to have a huge 50 km world but only like a few interesting places? The video says 60 places so in theory there should be things to do but still. At least in GTA there’s tons of havoc you can wreck because there’s people everywhere. Here there are… animals. And only once you get into an outpost or village there are people.

But hopefully I am wrong and it will still be a lot of fun to play through.

How To: Fix Windows Vista Parental Controls “Access Denied” Preventing You From Playing Games | Posted at 8:30 AM

My friend had a problem when he first started using Windows Vista where he would try to play a game like BioShock and Vista said he wasn’t allowed to play the game, it said “Access Denied?.

This made no sense because Parental Controls weren’t enabled at all and we could find no setting to disable it.

The unfortunate part is that I don’t know how to fix it. The way we fixed it was by formatting.

I don’t know if this was a problem with early Vista and has now been fixed, but if anyone is running into this problem, I don’t know how to fix it.

However, some people over at the 2K forums might have fixed it. Here’s a post that explains how to make it work (presumably). I edited it to provide maximum readage and helpfulness:

I’ve had this problem with a few games, and I am using a custom install of Vista.. basically you need to restart the parental controls service to make them work:

  1. Click Start
  2. Type in “Services.msc? in the search box, Press Enter
  3. Find Parental Controls in the list
  4. Right-click it and choose “Start?

That should enable the game to work, you can also change the default option from Manual to Automatic to make it work from now on.

To do so, double-click the Parental Controls  and change “Manual? to “Automatic? in the drop down menu.

Hope this helps enjoy Bioshock. I know this is an old post but when I was researching a fix I wasn't able to find one and had to work it out for myself and I figure this is the best place to put the result.

[Original Post via 2K Forums, Thanks nerionix!]

Hopefully that might fix it.

June 26, 2008

Why I Prefer Single Player Games to Multiplayer | Posted at 6:12 PM

Because I suck at multiplayer. If I play Rock Band, like I was just doing, I seem to get paired with people 10x as better as me. Once in a blue moon I will get someone at my skill level and it will be a close race. Out of the 10 or so matches today I beat 2. You know, it just becomes disheartening and frustrating after losing 5 times in a row.

Maybe I suck at guitar? If I tried drums I might be better.

The one game I can play and not get angry at is Team Fortress 2. Somehow dying in TF2 isn’t so bad. It’s comical. I see myself get blown to bits and funny remarks abound. Maybe it’s because I die in a way that doesn’t make me feel retarded, like getting a flamethrower in my face.

Still, I much prefer the tried and true single player experience. I played Morrowind for hours and hours when I discovered it. I even started playing again, since it is the one game my computer can play at max settings (well, alright, it can play a lot of games). Also I can win.

The one exception to mutiplayer is when it’s a LAN party or playing with friends. Then I am all for MP because even if I suck it’s a lot of fun.

It seems like if I want to have fun playing a game online I have to play 24 hours a week to be able to do anything, otherwise I just keep dying. I like matching better, games like Halo 3 or [sometimes] Rock Band, where I can get on randomly and beat a few people who are as bad as me.

June 25, 2008

How To: Get IPX Games to Work in Vista | Posted at 11:04 PM

Update #1: Looking for information on how to get Red Alert 2 working on Vista? Try this RA2 patch.

If you are a classic gamer, someone who plays the old Command and Conquer series like Red Alert 2, Yuri’s Revenge, and prior, you may have realized that trying to LAN on Vista doesn’t work.

That’s because these games use the IPX protocol, not the new TCP/IP. Since Windows XP, IPX has been supported on Windows but now the new Vista doesn’t support IPX.

I did find a post about how to maybe get it working. I can’t vouch for this as a solution because I don’t use Vista (old habits die hard) but perhaps it will work for some of you.

If I had Vista, I’d post a walkthrough with his steps but alas, I do not.

Alternatively, I have my own idea (that my friend mentioned):

Use a virtual machine with Windows XP and LAN over that. That would entail everyone having the virtual machine installed (or using XP) and running XP… but… if you’re really that hardcore…

You could also dual-boot XP and Vista, switch to XP for those classic games. When you can buy 750GB for $99, well, there’s no reason not to!

June 24, 2008

How to: Play Age of Empires III over Hamachi/LAN | Posted at 7:16 PM

I ran into a problem a while back where me and my friend wanted to play AOE III over Hamachi.

If you don’t know, Hamachi is a virtual private network program but it’s real easy to use. It creates a LAN between you and anyone in your server (in my case, some of my friends). You can password protect your server and invite only people you trust.

Naturally, this means you can easily LAN with people when they aren’t on your home network. Sometimes this can be tricky but the first method I’m going to show you should work for almost all the games.

Method 1: The Windows XP/Vista Route

Windows XP

There is a little known feature in Windows that lets you specify what network adapters are most important. Many games like Age of Empires will use the network card with the highest priority.

  1. Click Start and go to Control Panel
  2. Go to Network Connections
  3. In the menu at the top, click Advanced and then Advanced Settings.
  4. You’ll see your Wireless or Local Area Connection in the list and Hamachi under “Connections.?
  5. Click Hamachi and click the Green Up Arrow to move it to the top.
  6. Click OK to close the dialog.

Now Hamachi should be configured as a higher priority connection.

Windows Vista

  1. Click Start and go to Control Panel
  2. Click Network and Sharing Center
  3. On the left side, click Manage Network Connections
  4. Press the ‘Alt’ key and click Advanced then Advanced Settings at the top.
  5. You’ll see your Wireless or Local Area Connection in the list and Hamachi under “Connections.?
  6. Click Hamachi and click the Green Up Arrow to move it to the top.
  7. Click OK to close the dialog.

Run Age of Empires 3 and try to host a LAN game. In the top corner should be your Hamachi IP address.

If it’s not the right one, then you’ll have to set it manually for the game…

Method 2: Set AOE 3 Manually

Before using this method, update to AOE 3 1.04 or above! You can find the patches here.

Here’s a way to force AOE 3 to use a specific IP address:

  1. Go to your My Documents/Documents folder.
  2. Go to your My Games folder.
  3. Go to the Age of Empires III folder.
  4. Go to the Startup folder.
  5. If there is not a user.cfg file, open Notepad. Do File > Save As… and save it as user.cfg (make sure to use “All Files *.*? not “Text Documents *.txt?) in that folder.
  6. In user.cfg (right-click, Open With Notepad) add the following line:

    OverrideAddress="5.x.x.x"
  7. Change “5.x.x.x? to your Hamachi address. This can be found by opening up Hamachi and seeing what the big numbers at the top say.
  8. This will force AOE 3 to use the Hamachi address instead of your LAN IP address.

Now start AOE 3 and host a LAN game. You should see your Hamachi address now, for sure!

[View the Hamachi AOE 3-specific wiki entry for details and also the general Gaming wiki entry for more than what I’ve covered]

Troubleshooting Network Problems

If the address shows up but your friend still can’t connect, first make sure their IP address is showing correctly.

  • Use the same version. All users wanting to play AOE 3 over network need to have the same version. To see what version you have, browse to where you installed AOE 3 and open up “patch.rtf.? At the top it should tell you what version you have.
  • Make sure your EXE is the same. If you’re like me and buy games but don’t want to keep putting in the CD for them when you want to play, you’ve “cracked? your Age3.exe file. Make sure your friends all have the same one, otherwise it probably won’t work.

June 21, 2008

Run Crysis (and other games) in SLI [How To] | Posted at 3:44 PM

On Friday, I spent most of the day figuring out and tuning my system to properly use SLi. I had been having below par performance and I thought that SLi probably wasn’t working.

Before I delve into the details, here’s my rig specs:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ @ 2.4Ghz
  • 2GB DDR400 RAM
  • (x2) eVGA 7900GS 256MB Video Cards
  • Windows XP SP3
  • nVidia Drivers 175.16

I’m going to go through the different things I did to get Crysis (and my other games) properly running in SLI Mode.

The first thing I tried was updating my drivers to the latest, 175.16. In short, that didn’t seem to help. I was messing with the profile and nothing really seemed to be working, I was getting about 10-15fps. Unplayable.

Here’s what I did to make it all work:

Uninstall all previous nVidia Display Drivers from Control Panel.

Use Driver Cleaner Pro to remove the nVidia files (it’s just called “Nvidia?).

Restart the computer.

Cancel all of Windows’ driver installation boxes.

Install the nVidia drivers 175.16.

Download and install nHancer.

If you don’t already have FRAPS, download and install it to measure your FPS.

Restart the computer.

Now, here’s how to make sure SLI is actually working:

  1. Open up Nvidia Control Panel
  2. Make sure you have SLI Enabled
  3. Click 3D Settings in the menu, click “Show SLI Visual Indicators?

slivisual

Open up nHancer. It should scan your computer for installed programs. In the profiles list, scroll down to Crysis and select it.

nHancer

It should look like mine above. If it doesn’t, click the profile and click the Delete (X) button above it. It should say that this is a predefined profile and you can’t delete it fully, but it will reset it to the driver’s default. That’s what you want. If the preset is still different than mine, then change the Hex Value at the bottom to my value to turn on the proper compatibility flags.

Now that we’ve enabled the SLI Load Bar visual indicator, you can start Crysis up (with FRAPS running in the background). Right away, you should see the vertical SLI bar on the right side. It’s a green bar that grows from its center, indicating whether your system is using SLI. The bigger it is, the more efficient SLI is being used. If it’s close to the center, that means that it’s mostly using a single GPU.

To test it out, load up a save game. To really test your system, you should probably keep the same settings each time you use it. My system uses these settings:

crysis1024x768

If the green bar is moving and is pretty large, SLI is working. If FRAPS shows you a decent FPS, then you know everything is as it should be.

crysis_ingame1

crysis_ingame2 

There are a few things to know if you’re still getting crappy FPS:

  • Make sure you’re using the latest Crysis Patch 1.2.
  • Crysis is very GPU intensive. I get an average of 30fps using my settings and that’s good performance. It frequently is choppy, probably due to all the physics and effects, but it’s not horrible enough to make me lower the settings. Also, I don’t have an up-to-date PC by any means hardware wise.
  • Don’t install a mod like the Natural Mod, it cut my FPS to about 20 normally. It’s meant for high performance PCs.
  • Be sure to close all open programs and ones you don’t need from the system tray. It all uses up valuable memory Crysis needs.
  • Try using the 169.44 or 169.09 drivers. They are beta drivers but they might work. I tried the 169.44 drivers and SLI first started working then. However, it was probably because I used nHancer to reset the Crysis profile to its default settings.
  • Crysis is not GPU OC friendly, try disabling your overclock.

For some reason, my water is flickering and it’s annoying. It started doing that once I used SLI. It happened in the 169.44 drivers and then when I removed them and used 175.16, it still was there. It has to do with the Shader setting being set to High (or above). If it is on Medium, it doesn’t flicker.

Whatever, it works doesn’t it?

Note: In the title I said “and other games.? All of this made my other games work properly too, like Call of Duty 4, Oblivion, and Gears of War. All of which are now playable at 1680x1050 and full effects. GoW even can reach 60fps average! Oblivion is about 30-40fps average. CoD 4 can be 70fps in good areas and dip to 20s in really crazy areas.

June 12, 2008

My Custom Rock Band Guitar | Posted at 11:14 AM

If you want to see the epitome of nerdy, I bought a decal for my Rock Band guitar because I wanted it to stand out… and if someone stole it, I’d know it was mine.

Behold, the Inked Out Guitar:

Rock Band Guitar Body

Nice, eh?

Guitar Neck

Another guitar body picture

I have to be honest though, I think that I will take the decals off the fingered frets because it makes it hard to slide my finger over, plus it catches on the edge of the vinyl. Not fun!

You can buy yours at Digital Camo, but it took a long time to come. I think about 3-4 weeks. Shipping was fast, but to actually make the order took awhile. Still, it’s really sweet!

My Generation and Video Games | Posted at 12:49 AM

I think that many of my fellow generation Y can relate to the following scenario:

You’re playing Warcraft III, you’re in a clan match. Everything is going according to plan, your fellow mates are getting ready to push center and get rid of the enemy’s defenses.

Suddenly, you hear from upstairs, “Kamran!? Oh, great. “Yah?!? you yell, only slightly turning your attention away from the chaos. “Come up here.? Oh no. If you leave, it’ll most certainly spell the death of the match or at least cause severe casualties, and you can’t just leave your character unattended, you’ll be a feeder. But what can you do? “Just a second!? Quickly you type out your intentions to your teammates, getting sarcastic and sometimes unfriendly feedback.

“Kamran!?

“I’m coming!?

You head upstairs.

This is a scenario I see being played out with my brother all the time. He’s more into multiplayer games than I am; Warcraft III and CS:S mostly. Often times he’ll be in the middle of a match and will get called up to go to bed or come eat.

From experience, I know its hard to let go of a match. Especially if it’s a clan match or a ranked match. It might seem banal to non-gamers. “So what?? they might say. Sure, in the game of life it’s not such a big deal to lose some points and go down a rank in the ladder but I suppose in that moment it’s important to you because that’s what you’re working towards. I can’t imagine what it’s like to leave a Warcraft Raid in the middle of it, I bet some guilds are so strict you get kicked out. I wouldn’t be surprised.

This makes me wonder how I will handle my kids’ gaming habits. Luckily I will get a few years before they reach that stage and who knows, online gaming might evolve to cope with such scenarios (with FPS, the whole “click to spawn? usually works and you can stay un-spawned until you get back). You can vote pause a game in some titles already. Handy for LAN games, I’ll tell you that.

I think as a gamer myself, I might be more empathetic to my child’s plight.

“How much longer??

“The round ends in 5 minutes, dad!?

“Oh, alright. Hurry it up!?

Of course, that translates to 15 minutes, right? So on one hand, I can see how parents can get mad but on the other, I can understand why its hard to quit.

If it’s multiplayer, I can handle some leeway unless its really urgent (“TORNADO!?) but I expect them to pause it right away if it’s just single player. There’s not much excuse there unless you’re in a fight or in a solo on Rock Band.

What a conundrum. I think I should subject my kids to the same upbringing I had. No computers and video games until 8: send them to grandma’s to put together puzzles, LEGOs, and watch Sesame Street.

It did me good.

PS. I still can be proud of my youngest brother who played Oblivion (and read the dialog) when he was 7 and hooked up his computer by himself now as an 8 year old. Right now he plays Assassin’s Creed, Oblivion, Pokemon, Rock Band, Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, and Devil May Cry 4. He has as much taste in different genres as me!

June 11, 2008

Handy Andy 2 is here! | Posted at 10:01 AM

Since last year, my co-workers and I have been asked to create a web game for incoming freshmen to the U of MN to learn about the Student Unions & Activities. SUA encompasses most of the activities that are held on campus, as well as student groups and the game rooms.

Last year, we released Handy Andy’s Key Quest which was our first try and it came out pretty good if I say so myself. The style was supposed to be in the vein of old-school Nintendo with pixel graphics and 8-bit music. Obviously its a hybrid text adventure and … eating game? I had a lot of fun creating the graphics which might be apparent. I’m not the best artist, but pixel MS-Paint style graphics I can do. That said, Handy Andy 3 might be… more “modern.?

The engine is made up of JavaScript and CSS using YUI and other magic. The beauty is that anyone can use it to create their own similar type of game. It works in Firefox, Opera, Safari, and IE (6 and 7!).  And if someone has trouble playing, the engine is set up to make an Alternate Text version available easily.

Even if you are not a UMN student (or freshman), the game is fun to play anyway. As a developer or designer, you might be interested to check out the Javascript and CSS design.

And with that, let me present to you Handy Andy and The Ampersand Trail!

P.S. There are Easter eggs (*ahem* watch the credits). We will be implementing a secret level this week. That secret level will be a sneak peek into what Handy Andy 3’s art style will be, my new found talent! How will you find the secret level? That’s for you to find out. (Compared to previous installments, it took me an entire day to design the level instead of the usual hour and a half or so).

June 10, 2008

Using SLI with Assassin's Creed for PC | Posted at 10:48 AM

I recently acquired Assassin's Creed via Steam and I had a chance to test it out (using my friend's account). When I booted it up and turned on all the settings high and lowered the resolution, I got OK performance. It was playable but not as I'd like it. So I decided to try and use my SLi configuration that I paid over $300 for to try and increase my frames.

I have a 7900GS SLi system and Assassin's Creed for PC doesn't support SLi out of the box, but you can manually add a profile for it.

To do so:

1. Open nVidia Control Panel
2. Go to Manage 3D Settings
3. Click 'Add'
4. If you're using Steam, you need to browse to [Your SteamApps Folder]\common\assassins creed\
5. Depending on what DX version you're using, add the appropriate exe (mine is AssassinsCreed_Dx9.exe).
6. Scroll down to SLi Performance Mode.
7. Select 'Force alternate frame rendering 2'

I've tried 1 and 2, and 2 gives me a good extra 15-20 frames bringing it from barely playable to definitely playable (19 to above 30) in the temple intro. I have all settings High, Multisampling 1st level, and 1024x768. It brought the Animus screen from 30 to over 50.

To be fair though, I still can hardly play the game when in a city. Yuck.

I hope this helps someone get more performance!

Frets on Fire: Better than Guitar Hero? | Posted at 10:36 AM

Now, if there is one thing I am certainly a fan of, it is banging away on small plastic guitars to some of my favorite songs. I'm sure there are a lot of people like me out there in this respect.

That is why I need to share this with you:

What if you could get most of the songs you love that aren't on GH and play them? Well you can. All you need is a keyboard. Or, if you're like me, any 360 guitar controller.

It's called Frets on Fire and it's a free game that lets you play songs GH-style using your keyboard or any other input device.

As you can see, you can have a LOT of songs.

Here's a quick rundown of what you have to do:

  1. Download Frets on Fire.
  2. Download RF-Mod (version 4.15) for Frets on Fire. It has to overwrite your FoF folder.
  3. Install your USB 360 controller or use a keyboard.
  4. Obtain songs. These can be found on the web, in packs that be can be gotten from BitTorrent.
  5. Shred.

RF-Mod is a sweet, sweet mod that enhances the core functionality of FoF. Namely it installs a bunch of useful mods like the Guitar Hero Theme mod which I use, change the 5th fret color to orange, and some other graphical enhancements. The default themes are just ugly.

When installing my Harmonix Rock Band guitar, Windows XP detected it but still failed to install it. Apparently for most people using the Guitar Hero controllers it works fine but for me, it did not. This driver worked perfectly except that it's in French and I had no idea what was happening. After it installed though, it worked fine!

So my friends, happy shredding!

June 2, 2008

How to: Play Red Alert 2 (RA2) or Yuri’s Revenge (YR) over LAN using Windows XP/Vista | Posted at 9:58 PM

Update #1: Try using this RA2 patch that makes the game use UDP instead of IPX. It claims to make the game work on Vista.

Update #2: The other link doesn't work, use this ModDB page to download the patch. Confirmed working for RA2! This will work in Windows 7 and Vista.

---

Today, I had my friend over and we decided to play some Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge. This is my favorite CNC game of the whole franchise, but it did come out in 2000-2001. As such, playing it over LAN can get complicated and confusing. That's why I created this post. To help out people who are having trouble getting LAN to work.

Step 1: The set up

I have a router in my network configuration that is hooked up to a Network Switch (not a "Hub") that all my computers plug into.

When I first tried to network our game, my friend was using my laptop on my wireless network. This didn't work, at all.

Here's what did work: I plugged both computers by LAN cable into my Network Switch, not directly into the router. A hub might also work.

Step 2: Network Configuration

The next step is to make sure the network protocols on each computer are configured. Red Alert 2 is an older game and instead of the regular TCP/IP protocol that today's games use, it uses the IPX protocol.

Hey, Windows Vista Users!

Windows Vista does not officially support IPX. In fact, from the research I’ve done it looks impossible to get IPX working. However, there’s a great WikiHow article on how to apply a 3rd-party patch to replace the IPX functionality of RA2 with UDP instead. See if that works!

The Rest of Us

For the rest of you, by default, Windows XP doesn't install IPX on your network.

Alternate Solution without using IPX: WikiHow: Play Red Alert 2 Over the Internet

To install the IPX protocol on your network connection, do the following on each computer:


  1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Network Connections

    Control-Panel
  2. Find your Local Area Connection. This is the network card that you've plugged your LAN cable into, it's usually just named "Local Area Connection."

    Network-Connections
  3. Now, right-click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.

    LAN-Properties
  4. If "NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS Compatible Transport Protocol" isn't listed, then we need to install it.
  5. Click "Install..." then select Protocol, then click "Add..."

    Network-Protocol-Install
  6. You should see NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS Compatible Transport Protocol listed (I already have it installed). Select it and click "OK".
  7. Return to the Property page, you should now see the new protocol listed just above "TCP/IP."
  8. Select it and click "Properties"

    IPX-Properties
  9. For the field "Frame Type" select "802.2" and for Network Number use "00000001"
  10. Click OK and Close to exit out of the dialogs.

What we've just done is added the IPX protocol to your network connection. If you don't add this, Red Alert 2 will not go to the Network page when you click Network, it will bring you back to the Main Menu.

Step 3: Configuring RA2


  1. Start up Red Alert 2.
  2. Click Options and then Network
  3. For Network Adapter, select the one that begins with "00 00 00 01" and then a bunch of numbers and letters. That's your Local Area Connection.
  4. For "Destination Network" type in "00.00.00.01"

RA2-Network-Settings

Click Back and Back again to return to the Main Menu screen. Now click Network to go to the Network Lobby. Stay there. Repeat all of the above steps on the second/third/fourth/etc. computer. Once all is said and done, you should all see each other in the Network Lobby.

If you don't see each other

If you don't see each other, make sure you're all connected through the hub or switch. Make sure all the "Network Number" fields for the IPX protocol are the same. Make sure no one is accidentally connecting to your wireless network.

Try disabling your firewall. I don’t use Windows XP Firewall when I play, so the wireless issue was a strange one. However, if you are using wired ethernet, make sure to disable any Internet Security or Firewall programs.

These were the settings and conditions under which we played successfully. You may not even have to edit the Properties of the IPX protocol if you are connected through a switch. I just made them the same just in case, I didn't test it using default settings. I think it may have to do with your router, that's why I said to connect them to a switch or hub.

Anyway, I hope this helps people in the future!

Update: A lot of people hit this page, so I’ve added pictures to help!

May 27, 2008

Red Alert 3 Preview | Posted at 11:38 PM

ra3logo.jpg

IGN posted a preview of the upcoming title Red Alert 3. I also watched the developer walkthrough which was a good 15 minutes of real footage.

I've been a die hard fan of the CNC franchise, but that was for Westwood's titles (up until Red Alert 2 really, that had EA influence though). After that, the only CNC game that got any respect from me was Tiberium Wars, but it still wasn't catchy enough for me. I loved RA2 and Yuri's Revenge and I think it had a lot to do with its colorfulness, comic humor, and outrageous units.

I can't believe I am admitting this, but RA3 actually looks worthy of being RA2's successor. CNC 3 was a step in the right direction, a bigger step than Generals (finally, no more accursed bulldozers!), but RA3 looks like the real deal. What I noticed most, and I hope will stay, is that they use all of the same sound effects. Granted, for new units they could record more, but I am really glad they're sticking with the original sounds. I loved them and I couldn't see Red Alert without them, unless of course they are world's better. What's more is that they kept the same music.

My impression is that they'll be replacing most of those assets because it would make sense to tackle that last as you can build on your previous assets to minimize development time. I hope that they keep a lot of it or at least make the new SFX on the same tune as previous franchise installments. What interests me greatly is the new naval aspect. I've not played a game with a strong naval RTS element and I loved using naval units in RA. Building bases on the water sounds awesome.

Apparently there's going to be a new co-op campaign mode, that will be pretty fun. Co-op maps on RA2 were a lot of fun, I hope that proves true for this. They'll also be featuring FMV cut scenes ala CNC 3. From experience, I expect it to be really cheesy, but damn if the original RA's cut scenes weren't bad ass. CNC 3 just was dumb and super cheesy. RA2 was pretty decent but not as cool as the original. Maybe it was because I was 8 when I played the original RA and everything was badass about that game.

If they have good writers and good actors, they could pull off some decent video. But really, looking at the material RA3 has to work with, you can't expect much seriousness to go on here.

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing how it fares. It will be on Xbox and PC, but I want to LAN it so PC it'll have to be. Maybe I will have bought a better video card by then to run it at full specs. On that note, SLi is a friggin' joke. Two 7900GS's can't match my friend's 8800GT. What a load of crap.

May 19, 2008

Oh, the Irony | Posted at 4:19 PM

xbox-360-elite.jpg

This last Saturday marked the end of my academic year. Of course, this was the most opportune time for my Xbox to lay down and die. Couldn't it have waited til mid-summer? Or perhaps just not died at all?

The worst part is, it has not succumbed to the dreaded Red Rings of Death. Instead, it just freezes. That means that I have to actually pay for my repair... I wish it had RRoD'd. The nice thing is, Microsoft sends you a shipping container that's prepaid, so I will only be spending money on the repair, not the shipping as well.

GTA IV will have to wait, I guess. Maybe I can put some time into Pokemon Diamond and Mario Kart Wii.